SINGAPORE - Four vaccination centres will be closing down at the end of this month and more may follow as the vaccination rate here goes up, said Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary on Tuesday (Sept 14).
But at the same time, the number of Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) which offer vaccinations will be increased from the 79 now to around 100 by the end of October, he added as he stressed the importance of the jabs.
Those unable to go to vaccination centres or PHPCs to get inoculated will be visited by the Government's mobile and home vaccination teams, he said.
Dr Janil was replying to 19 MPs who had asked for updates on the Covid-19 situation here and wanted to know more about Singapore's plans regarding vaccination and opening up. Currently, 81 per cent of Singapore's population are fully vaccinated.
Noting that some MPs had asked about the criteria for moving from one stage of reopening to the next, Dr Janil said that what determines this is not just the vaccination rate.
"I can understand the desire for transparent and pre-determined criteria, but other than vaccination rates, we need to also consider case numbers, the transmission trajectory, our social behaviour in adherence to the safe management measurements and the status of the testing regimes," he said.
Taking all this into account, the Government has decided to pause Singapore's plans to reopen further, given the rising number of Covid-19 cases currently, said Dr Janil. The Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 607 new cases of the disease on Monday, and it expects this figure to exceed 1,000 soon.
To encourage the take-up of vaccines, he said that MOH has been working with stakeholders to address the concerns of those who have not received them over medical complications due to pre-existing diseases, misinformation on the vaccines and their side effects, and those who do not see the need for vaccinations.
MOH has issued clarifications and corrections and, where necessary, applied the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) to debunk falsehoods, said Dr Janil.
In response to questions raised on the effectiveness of the coronavirus jabs in protecting children, he said that no child in Singapore thus far has developed severe illness requiring oxygen supplementation or intensive care as a result of Covid-19.
"We are, however, mindful that the number of cases in the community is rising, and there may be more children infected with Covid-19 in the future. We will ensure that these children receive appropriate care if the illness is more severe."
On questions regarding the stock of jabs here, Dr Janil said that Singapore has been procuring a portfolio of vaccines that use different technologies. This is done to improve the country's chances of securing vaccines that will continue to be safe and effective against Covid-19.
But he added that more information regarding Singapore's vaccine stock, the remaining number of doses and their delivery schedules cannot be disclosed due to commercial sensitivities and confidentiality undertakings with vaccine manufacturers.
Responding to Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh, who asked about the number of Singaporeans who cannot take the vaccine for medical reasons, Dr Janil said that this is not a fixed number given how the number is continually assessed. He assured the House that it is a small number and that the Government will pay very close attention to it.
Mr Singh, who is chief of the Workers' Party, had also asked if the Government has a position on testing-related subsidies for Singaporeans who cannot take the jabs for medical reasons.
To this, Dr Janil said that such individuals have some degree of vulnerability and may need to be careful about their exposure to the wider community, as the issue of testing is not going to protect them from the vulnerability they have as a result of their medical condition.